Think for a moment of the places they didn't move to. Des Moines. Fairbanks. La Paz. Chad.
"Portland is only an hour from the ocean," says Dick Coury, the head coach of the Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers. "So the name Breakers still makes sense."
Marvelous, insane USFL sense. The Breakers, who started in 1983 as the new league's Boston entry ("We're already associated with a New England Football Tradition," said that year's media guide) and then drifted to Louisiana in '84 ("The Breakers are 'your team,' " said the New Orleans guide), have now set down in vague proximity to the mellow waves of the Left Coast. From sea (to Gulf) to shining sea faster than you can say "Allied Van Lines." The Breakers are just looking for a home. With a water view, if possible.
And what does this year's publicity guide say about the team? Er, the guide is on the presses, isn't it? "Ha," says p.r. director John Brunelle, who has been on the job less than two months. He's still trying to figure out just who these Yankee-Cajun-Oregonian strangers in the blue-wave helmets are.
The Breakers' uprootings have made their employees ponder the vagaries of fate. "I thought I was going to be the hometown boy who makes good," says head trainer Stan Wong, a native of Fall River, Mass. who went to Northeastern University and signed on with the original Breakers staff. "And now I couldn't be any farther from Boston and still be in the U.S.A." Obviously trail-weary, Wong has forgotten about Alaska and Hawaii.
"It's ironic, but I'm going home. I'm from Portland," says equipment manager Russ McElroy, another original Breaker. "I thought I'd never get there again."
"You aren't there yet," warns Herb Vincent, the former Breakers assistant p.r. man, who now works for the Los Angeles Express. On this day Vincent, McElroy, Wong and a few other drifters are watching the Breakers and the Express scrimmage at the Breakers' new preseason training site at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. The camp is about 1,000 miles from the Breakers' home in Portland, where they will play in old Civic Stadium, once the home of the Portland Storm/Thunder of the WFL, which died in 1975 without so much as a distant rumble.
"I've heard the area's a lot like New England, sort of," says Wong. Like most of the other Breakers, he has never set foot in the Pacific Northwest. Now he just hopes he does, and for more than one year. And, given the USFL's history, there's always a chance he never will. The Breakers aren't scheduled to arrive in Portland until the second week of the season, for a March 2 game against the Los Angeles Express. A westward-ho team like the Breakers could have relocated in Tokyo by that time.
"I remember last year in New Orleans, when it was raining so much and we had the trucks all packed up, ready to move our training camp to Daytona Beach, to a baseball stadium or something," says McElroy. "At the last minute somebody says, 'Hold it.' The next thing you know, we're headed 120 miles west to Lafayette, Louisiana."
NFL teams may switch towns to make more money, but in the USFL you switch towns to keep breathing. In the league's brief history, two other teams besides the Breakers have relocated and there have been three mergers and countless swappings of players, support personnel and road maps. One team, the Chicago Blitz (né Arizona Wranglers), has suspended play until 1986. Still, hope springs eternal down the road—up to a point.